In the Steelworkers we know something about combustible dust. We represent members in many more industries than steel, and we've experienced dust explosions in steel, rubber, plastics, wood products, and a variety of metals - especially aluminum.
40 micron aluminum powder is combustible, and if you are generating any significant amount of it you have much bigger problems than cleaning it up. A proper vacuum is essential, but you also need spark arresters and other measures in the ventilation system, since dust explosions can occur inside them. You also need to keep it free of moisture, since it can react to form hydrogen.
The proper course is to reduce the generation of dust by changes in how the aluminum is handled, and then to prevent any visible build up.
I stress that combustible dust explosions can kill. Aluminum powder is one of the main ingredients in fireworks. Best not to have an unintended fireworks display in your lab.
For specific help with the details, I'd suggest calling Alcoa in Pittsburgh. They have an excellent safety program, and know aluminum better than anyone.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
5 Gateway Center
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Work (412) 562-2580
Cell (412) 370-0105
Fax (412) 562-2584
Visit us on the web at www.usw.org
I am compelled to state the obvious. I suggest you meet with the investigator and some one knowledgable of modern laboratory ventilation standards and practices to review the research being done and how to modify the facilities including containment systems to assure that all applicable exposure standards are met and that you have no combustibility issues. In my opinion, the issue of the specific vacumn cleaner is important, however, it is likely secondary to ventilation issues. Although the material was stated to be a 40 micron powder I would want assurance through measurements as to levels( or absence) of respirable particles.
GOOD LUCK IN WHAT SOUNDS LIKE A MAJOR EDUCATIONAL EXERCISE.
Roger O. McClellan, Fellow-American Association for Aerosol Research
Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis
13701 Quaking Aspen Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87111
Dear DCHAS members:
One of PI in our campus is using 40 micron aluminum powder for the research purpose. After experiment/manipulations, they generate dust (fine layer of Al dust) in the room as well as in instrument surfaces. According from F1 Sheet from the Aluminum Association specified "Standard commercial industrial vacuum cleaners must not be used during cleaning. Vacuum cleaning systems, designed and certified for use withGroup E combustible dusts may be used, with limitations (see NFPA 484)".Aluminum powder is highly flammable and can explode in the air under circumstances. [MSDS (JT Baker):Flammable solid, dust may form flammable or explosive mixture with air. Nanomaterial Store MSDS: contact with water liberates extremely flammable gases, spontaneously flammable in air.]
According to NFPA 484: 126.96.36.199.4: When being used for aluminum powders and aluminum dust, portable vacuum cleaners shall be used only if listed or approved for use with group E dusts (combustible aluminum dust) and shall be identified for use with aluminum only.
I need your recommendations/suggestions in respect to cleaning/decontamination procedures used for the fine layer of materials. Please let me know if any of your facility is working with similar conditions with the aluminum dust. I will greatly appreciate your help in this matter.
Tilak Chandra, Ph.D.
Chemical Safety Specialist
Environment, Health and Safety
University of Wisconsin-Madison
30 East Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53715
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